Giuliani vs. Brooklyn Museum

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Brooklyn Museum 
Official Site

Museum director Arnold Lehman's 
letter about "Sensation" issues


The Latest


THIS IS PUNISHMENT? The elderly retired school teacher who defaced a Chris Ofili painting in last year's "Sensation" show at the Brooklyn Museum, gets a $250 fine for the act. Says the judge: "So long as he has paint in his hand, he is to stay away from the Brooklyn Museum." New York Daily News 11/15/00


RESERVED OPTIMISM: After reaching a surprising settlement with Mayor Giuliani on Monday - in which the city of New York pledged $5.8 million to the museum's renovation project - the Brooklyn Museum is cautious about the victory and the museum's future. "Monday's settlement was more an occasion of relief than of jubilation...In this topsy-turvy case, the winners are worried about what may have been lost-in public trust, in long-term government and corporate support, in the willingness to display art that offends some people - just as the losers are hopeful about what may have been won: Roman Catholic votes in a certain Senate race." New York Times 03/29/00 (one-time registration required for entry)

  • Court forces Giuliani to back down. New York Times 03/28/00 (one-time registration required for entry)

  • CEASEFIRE: The City of New York and the Brooklyn Museum have signed an agreement which will put an end to the strife over Mayor Rudy Giuliani and last year's controversial "Sensation" exhibit. The agreement requires city funding of the museum be permanently restored, and that both sides drop their lawsuits and appeals, and pay their own legal fees. CBC 03/28/00

  • THE SHOW THAT WOULDN'T DIE: Some 400 academics, arts administrators, students and others gathered in Chicago last weekend to examine the relationship between the arts and society in the wake of the Brooklyn Museum of Art's controversial  "Sensation" show. "The whole controversy has been high entertainment and good instruction," said W.T.J. Mitchell, an art historian at the University of Chicago. Sydney Morning Herald 02/15/00 (New York Times)

  • "SENSATION" CLOSES at the Brooklyn Museum much as it opened - big crowds, protests outside. New York Times 01/10/00 (one-time registration required for entry)

  • UNTANGLING "SENSATION:" When chickens come home to roost. New Criterion 01/00 

  • AMONG THE STAID OLD MASTERS GALLERIES clustered on a London street, an upstart arrived a half-dozen years ago. Jay Jopling's Cube Gallery has brought worldwide attention to some of the most talked-about artists on the British art scene, including many of those in the “Sensation” show, which opened at the Brooklyn Museum last fall. His reaction to the Brooklyn flap? “That was great! You’d pay a million dollars to get publicity on that scale!” ARTnews 01/00 

  • UNEASY FIT: Art and commerce have always had an uneasy relationship. Recent revelations about the relationship between collector/funder Charles Saatchi and the Brooklyn Museum only kicked the problem out into the open. Sydney Morning Herald 12/21/99

  • 72-YEAR_OLD MAN  charged with smearing white paint across painting at Brooklyn Museum. Described by his wife as a Roman Catholic who opposed abortion and believed that the painting was sacrilegious. New York Times 12/18/99 (one-time registration required for entry)

  • VANDAL attacks controversial Ofili painting in Brooklyn Museum's "Sensation" show while stunned guards watch on. New York Times 12/17/99 (one-time registration required for entry)
  • GIULIANI VS. LEHMAN: Two shameless self-promoters who have met their match in each other. San Francisco Examiner 12/14/99

  • "DEMANDING AND OPINIONATED": Brooklyn Museum says it retained artistic control of "Sensation" show. But museum documents show collector Charles Saatchi called the shots. New York Times 12/6/99 (one-time registration required)




The News
(Most recent at the bottom)

  • spells out the New York mayor's controversy with the Brooklyn show and shows you the work (halfway down page). 9/27/99
  • Chairman of Brooklyn Museum meets mayor - discusses removing offending artwork. Proposals included segregating controversial work, taking 20 percent cut in museum subsidy during show. City leaks talks to press so museum says all bets are off. New York Times 9/28/99 
  • First Lady criticizes Giuliani stand on art. Washington Post 9/28/99
  • Brooklyn Museum strikes back at mayor by suing him on first amendment issues. Mayor responds by holding back payment to museum, due this week. New York Times 9/29/99
  • New York mayor accuses Brooklyn Museum of conspiring with auction house to raise the value of works in controversial show. New York Times 9/30/99
  • Legal experts give Giuliani little chance in Brooklyn dispute MSNBC (Reuters) 10/1/99
  • US Senate approves measure barring federal funds from Brooklyn Museum Washington Post 9/30/99
  • BROOKLYN SHOW FINALLY OPENS and New York's cultural leaders troop to the opening to see it. New York Times 10/1/99
  • Police arrest man for throwing manure at museum. I was protesting, he tells them CBC 10/1/99
  • Is everybody happy? Of course they are - Rudy Giuliani spent his Sunday on the talk shows explaining the meaning of "mayoral duty" while lines to get in the Brooklyn Museum's controversial show snaked outside the door. 
    New York Times 10/4/99
  • Overflow crowds/protesters handing out barf bags CBC 10/4/99
  • HOUSE BROKEN: US House passes resolution calling for end of federal funding for Brooklyn Museum. 
    Washington Post 10/5/99

  • ALL IN THE TIMING: Museum charges that Rudy Giuliani knew about contents of Brooklyn show in July but raised no objections. New York Times 10/5/99

  • Rocker David Bowie intends to put all 141 of the "Sensation" artworks online at MSNBC 10/5/99

  • "SENSATIONAL" EDUCATION: Brooklyn Museum wants to ensure that once you're inside the show you understand it. 
    New York Times 10/8/99

  • TAKING SIDES: Screen Actors Guild condemns Giuliani/ candidate Bush backs him. Dung dancers unite. Backstage 10/8/99

  • BROOKLYN MUSEUM GOES TO FEDERAL COURT Friday charging New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani with violating the institution's 1st amendment rights. NPR Morning Edition 10/8/99 [Real Audio clip]

  • OPENING ARGUMENTS: The Brooklyn Museum was in court Friday opposing New York Mayor Giuliani - decision expected late next week. New York Times 10/9/99 

  •  BREAKING RANKS: Giuliani keeps a tight check on members of his administration, but his commissioner of culture speaks out (politely) on the Brooklyn Museum debacle. 
    New York Times 10/9/99 

  • AT WHAT COST? Controversial show Brooklyn Museum show was largely financed by those who stood to gain from promoting artists in the show. 
    New York Times 10/31/99 (registration required for access)

  • New York mayor attacks judge on ruling. NYT 11/3/99

  • JUDGE TO GIULIANI: Hands off the Brooklyn Museum. "There is no federal constitutional issue more grave than the effort by government officials to censor works of expression and to threaten the vitality of a major cultural institution as punishment for failing to abide by governmental demands for orthodoxy." Giuliani calls decision "kneejerk." New York Times 11/2/99
         AND: Toronto Globe and Mail story,
     Washington Post story
         PREVIOUSLY: FEDERAL JUDGE ORDERS New York City to resume funding of Brooklyn Museum in ruling delivered Monday morning. 
    CBC 11/1/99

  • HOPE ALL THOSE T's ARE CROSSED: New York City attorneys say they'll closely examine Brooklyn Museum's funding arrangements with sponsors of controversial "Sensations" show. Meanwhile, more support for museum from city arts institutions. 
    New York Times 11/4/99
    (registration required for access)

  • DEFENDING THE BROOKLYN: Judge's ruling in favor of museum Monday wasn't a surprise, but museums gave a sigh of relief anyway. Museum went too far with private collectors, but that's just the way things are. 
    New York Times 11/3/99 (registration required for access)

  • CANCELLATION SENSATION: Australia's National Gallery of Art cancels planned visit of the infamous "Sensation" show. Sydney Morning Herald 11/29/99 

  • And: New York Times account 12/1/99


The Issues



  • CORPORATE ROCK: Metropolitan Museum opens latest in long line of corporate shows - Tommy Hilfiger brings you rock music outfits. But the Met is unlikely to get dinged like the Brooklyn Museum - the Met is more openly corrupt with sponsorships than its brother across the river. Hey, get real, that's the only way museums can afford to get expensive stuff inside its walls. Slate 12/8/99

  • THE STYLE AND GLAMOUR INDUSTRY: Nothing shocking or particularly sensational about it. It's High Art Lite - how the YBA's recast high art in the 1990s and made it a fashion industry of the most cynical variety. LA Weekly 12/9/99 

  • FROM ARTSPEAK TO NOW: Critic Matthew Collings' new book pierces the veil of artspeak and looks at the rituals, silliness, gossip and integrity of the art world. Salon 12/1/99 
    And: Laurence Jarvik talks with Collings, who explains why the Young British Artists have caused such a sensation on both sides of the Atlantic. The Idler 12/1/99

  • TOPPING THE YBA: Young British Artists might have caused a sensation in Brooklyn, but on the eve of this year's Turner Prize announcement, signs that the YBA's have been absorbed into the wider London art world. New York Times 11/30/99 (one time registration required) 
  • ANDREW ROSS AND AMY ADLER talk about "Sensation." Artforum 11/99
  • SIZING UP "SENSATION": Rarely has an art show had so many reluctant champions. New York Times 10/24/99
  • CHAMPION OF CONTROVERSIAL ART: Legendary arts educator Philip Yenawine says the professional art world has failed the public and themselves. Brooklyn brawl is all too sadly familiar. Salon 10/25/99
  • CROSSFIRE: Schuyler Chapin, New York's commissioner of culture, is caught between a peeved mayor and arts supporters clamoring for Chapin's support in the Brooklyn Museum debacle. 
    New York Times 10/20/99 (registration required to access)
  • HIT THE ROAD? If the City of New York does succeed in its threat to evict the Brooklyn Museum from its city-owned home, the Museum, which owns the second-largest collection of art in the US, could theoretically pack up its artwork and go somewhere else. 
    New York Times 10/21/99 
    (registration required to access)
  • NEO-CONCEPTUALISTS WHO SHOCK: The Young British Artists have been going for the jugular for years. Every movement needs a history. New York Times 10/14/99
  • THE PAGEANT OF CONTROVERSY: Jacob Weisberg riffs on a well-staged drama. New York Times Magazine 10/10/99
  • Meet Chris Ofili - British artist at the center of the controversy. NYT 9/28/99
  • The Elephant dung crowd: Having trouble understanding the YBA's (Young British Artists) that give New York Mayors fits? Last year the Atlantic Monthly wrote a primer on why these artists are hot and just what's the appeal. Atlantic Monthly 11/98
  • Just a thug: The LA Times' Christopher Knight weighs in on New York's Rudy Giuliani. Los Angeles Times 10/1/99
  • So what did you expect? The show is called "Sensation" after all. Philadelphia Inquirer 9/30/99
  • How Charles Saatchi and money called the shots on a "lousy" show New York Observer 9/30/99
  • The directors of the Metropolitan Museum of Art and the Museum of Modern Art weigh in on the Giuliani/Brooklyn Museum flap with similar statements. Bob Herbert criticizes. New York Times 9/27/99
  • E-memos between culturals reveal confusion, timidity NYT 9/29/99
  • A "shabby connivance" is what the museum's perpetrated. 
    Washington Post 10/4/99
  • Some political analysis for Mr. Mayor NYT 10/1/99
  • Brooklyn Preview: Brooklyn Museum director Arnold Lehman's actions while he was director of the Baltimore Museum of Art give some big clues about how he's dealing with Rudy Giuliani. Baltimore Sun 10/3/99 
  • Cut-up cows are tame stuff compared to grotesque biological exhibits of the past. NYT 10/5/99 
  • Exploring links between art and controversy. Baltimore Sun 10/11/99
  • Sifting through the hype. Chicago Tribune 10/11/99


Related controversies

  • DETROIT MUSEUM DEFENDS CLOSING DOWN SHOW: Anatomically-correct doll of Jesus wearing a condom is "offensive," say museum officials. Says artist: "I hear `postpone,' I hear `select and edit': I hear `censorship.' " Boston Globe 11/24/99

  • AND: SENSATIONAL FALLOUT: The Detroit Institute of Arts shuts down a show only two days after opening out of fears of "offending the community." The artist is crying censorship. New York Times 11/23/99 (one time registration required)

  • AND: Closing show was new director's first official act since taking over. Detroit News 11/19/99

  • And: Detroit museum director was former director of LA County Museum - had refused to book "Sensation" show there. Los Angeles Times 11/24/99

  • Parallels in Miami: An earlier controversy has similarities 
    New York Times 10/23/99
  • HARTFORD HAS ITS OWN "BROOKLYN": Familiar reruns on the Art Controversy Network. Why do these things always seem to play out the same way? Hartford Courant 10/17/99
  • ARTIST PROTEST: Tuesday, artists hung a giant "censored" sign over a billboard promoting the arts in Hartford after city officials pulled a piece of artwork from a show at a public gallery. Hartford Courant 10/20/99
  • Hartford city officials will decide next week if they will allow a show by a Montana artist to go on. Some of the pieces in the show "could be interpreted as representing sexual organs. Hartford Courant 10/1/99
  • Canadian artist's work banned from show: No dung - it's a robe made of maxi-pad feminine hygiene products. It's not offensive to me, says official, but it might be for others. Toronto Globe and Mail 9/30/99 
  • Cries of censorship and naiveté swirl around a Halifax show of photographs of Tibet. Does photographer have the right to his own captions? Globe and Mail 9/30/99 





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